woman in red hat, sunglasses and suit of 90s with VHS cassette
Christy Gualtieri

The Things That Stay

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I went to the movies to see the new remake of Little Women. (I love the story, and the adaptation was pretty enjoyable! I’d recommend it.) On the way there, the song “No Scrubs” by TLC came on the radio, and although it’s rare to hear it, the station had decided to include the rap solo that usually gets cut out of radio edits. The rap mentioned the word “Filas,” which most members of the late Gen-X (of which I am a member) and the early Millennials will recognize as a shoe brand. They were the brand that everyone wanted when I was in high school. The most popular kids wore them, great pains were taken to make sure they were kept clean, and plenty of famous people sported them when they went out.

I do not intend any disrespect to the company, which is still around and I am sure continues to make fantastic products, but I had not thought about Filas in a solid twenty years before that car ride. That led me to wonder about the things that last, not only fads that have had their time in the sun, but the things that last for us personally. What are the things that you were so invested in decades ago that you’ve completely forgotten now? What personal claims did you stake? What were the biggest issues that consumed you and eventually fell away with time?

And for that matter – what things stayed?

Little Women was first published in the late 1860s and has been remade several times for a reason – its themes of sisterhood, young love, feminism and sacrifice have resonated with each generation that have come after it. Those things have all withstood the test of time. Plenty of books and movies have come and gone and will never be heard from again. (Although I did just hear that there’s another installment of the “National Treasure” movies in the works, so maybe not all is lost.)

It’s kind of funny to think about the things that stay. How the things we worry about so much only stay because we hold onto them so tightly. What are the things in your life that you’ve held on to – for better or for worse? We all have things we should let go of but we just can’t, no matter how hard we try; and maybe it’ll be years before we finally let them go. But there are things that we hope will be around a good long time more than we will, the invisible laws that are written on our hearts. Love. Kindness. Mercy.

If you have a few seconds, take some time to think about the things you want to keep in your life. What do you want to pass on to the next generation? What things matter the most, and which are just a flash in the pan? Maybe it would do you good, and all of us, really to orient ourselves and put our energies into those things, the lasting things. All the rest, as they say, can be history.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Christy Gualtieri

Attitude of Gratitude

Confession time: I don’t like writing thank you notes. I am thankful, of course, for the things I receive; and I very much appreciate the people I receive these things from but as a parent with very little extra time in my day, it’s hard to find the energy to sit down, pull out a stack of cards, and think of all I want to say to thank someone for a gift. And because I am of the unfortunate generation that grew up writing things by hand but transitioned to mostly typing on a computer, just the sheer effort of physically writing the words gets tedious a lot earlier than it used to. (I know exactly how absurd this all sounds, by the way. But it’s true!)

Although I don’t like actually writing them, I do very much love the idea behind writing them, because I understand that buying things – and especially making things – for someone else takes time, and effort, and thought; and it’s something that needs recognition and my appreciation! So this year, after dutifully writing down who gave what gift to each of my family members, I’m sitting down to write my Christmas thank yous; and doing so gave me the chance to think about the idea of gratitude and what it means to be thankful every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving or after a birthday or when someone does something nice for you.

What does it mean to be thankful when it’s an ordinary day, when there’s work to go to and bills to pay and a family to cook and clean for? What does gratitude look like for you when it doesn’t appear that you have anything to be thankful for? How can we start living lives that are thankful even when there’s no extra reason to be?

Well, one way may be to look beyond the obvious. Sure, it’s easy to be thankful when someone shows up at your door with a gift or when someone helps you out; but we can start much smaller than that: by looking at ourselves. We’re not perfect, and not all of us have perfect bodies, but there’s plenty of things about our bodies we can be thankful for right now. Sure, you may have a bad haircut; but if you’re reading this right now, you have eyes (at least one) that can see this and a brain that can understand it. We can be thankful for that! If you can’t see and someone is reading this to you, then you have ears to hear it! We tend to be fixated on the parts of our bodies that we don’t like, but we can celebrate the ones that do. We can be thankful for our educations, our abilities, and the tiniest things that bring us joy.

We can even take it outside ourselves: there’s our families, our relationships, our cities, our communities. And even if those bring you pain, keep breaking it down to the point where you can find one thing to be thankful for about them. Sooner or later, you’ll find something and when you find one thing, you’re bound to find more.

Everyone knows someone who has been so beaten down by what life’s given them that they can’t see any of the good. If you know someone like that, please, please encourage them. Find something that you like about them and let them know about it because it can make all of the difference in the world. And if that someone is you, try – even just the smallest effort is something to celebrate – to find the closest thing to you that you can be thankful for. Even if it’s not joyful, it will help you learn to look for the good around you instead of constantly turning toward the bad. Slowly, slowly, little by little, we’ll begin to adopt the kind of lives that bring joy to others and to ourselves, so much so, that maybe we won’t just save all the giving thanks for holidays. We can really, truly live it all year.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

 

Girl posing against the background of decorated trees
Christy Gualtieri

This Little Light

It’s all going by so fast this year, isn’t it? I guess with Thanksgiving so late, it seems like the whole world is in a mad rush – even more than usual! So many things crowd our minds: what gifts do I need to get for my kids’ teachers? What parties do we have when? Why do I need to see my relatives at dinner, but what would happen if I backed out? What if I get the wrong gift? I worked so hard all year – what if I don’t get any gifts, and I continue to feel so unappreciated?

And why does it have to be dark outside more than it’s light? I leave for work in the dark, come home in the dark!

It all feels like so much darkness!

My husband used to say that his least favorite day of the year was the first day of Summer, because “it all goes downhill from here.”  The days start to get shorter, and we lose the light. You don’t see it much, of course, in July and early August when the sun doesn’t even begin to go down after 8:00 pm, but gradually, ever so slowly (and then all in a rush), it gets dark.

Human beings have a complicated relationship with darkness, but it’s fair to say we crave the light. Even when it’s bitterly cold and dark outside, we’re cheered by thoughts of cozying up to warm firelight, or the light of a lamp in the kitchen as we’re eating dinner. We’re innately drawn to – even if we’re suspicious of it at first – a joyful person who exudes a bright personality, and innately shun people who drag around like little Eeyores with dark clouds hanging over their heads.

We like the light, even if the light hurts us. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, he introduces the idea of adjusting to light once we’ve seen it and can no longer “unsee” it. Light is knowledge. We have “bright” ideas. We’ve come to realizations and “seen the light.”

You may be walking in darkness right now. If you are, I am so sorry. I’ve walked through periods of darkness in my life, and I’m sure I will again. We’re all human, and that’s what we do. Our lives are made up of the good and the bad – of the fortunate circumstances and the unfortunate ones. Maybe 2019 wasn’t your year. Or 2018, or all the way back to 1999, when the promise of a new millennium was what you needed to start fresh…and it didn’t deliver.

2020 may be your year! Or it might not. And that’s okay. It’s okay because there will be light.

It might not be as bright as you want. It may be a tiny little flicker of hope. But I promise you, it will be there. It may shine from the unlikeliest of places or it may come from you. But it will come. No matter how tiny that little spark is, the darkness cannot overcome it. Draw yourself closer to that light this upcoming year. It may be small. It may be tiny. But it will be the light. And the more you are drawn to it, the bigger it will be; and my hope for you this next year is that you kindle that light until it creates a fire in your heart that others can draw close to to warm themselves – and from there, truly spread love throughout the world.

An ancient Chinese proverb says “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” If you are able to let your light shine, the whole world will be better for it! And if you need yours lit, find that small light in your world and get to know it better.  Then, no matter how dark it may feel in your life, you will not be overcome by it. And if you’re not overcome by the darkness, just imagine how wonderful it all could be.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Teacher and pupils
Don Laird

Back to School: A Mental-Health Check List

It’s that time of the year again. When a simple three-word phrase evokes dread for most school-age kids and relief for most parents: “Back to School.” Yet, ask any parent, child or teacher, heading back to the classroom is not without its challenges. It can be an exceptionally difficult time of transition for children who suffer from a mental health or learning issue.

Anxietyespecially unrealistic self-expectations and generalized fear of the world at largeis growing among school-aged children and adolescents these days. Potential root causes for this are both broad and complex, and worthy of a separate, stand-alone article. So returning to school can be an enormously challenging task for any child. Let alone one who struggles with anxiety.

Let’s look at it through a practical lens. Children are away from home and routine, and the rules have changed. The school environment requires certain demands that a typical summer setting does not. Summer rarely needs a child to sit still, stay organized, remain focused and on task and adapt to an extremely structured schedule.

Here are five things you should keep in mind before the first homeroom bell rings:

  1. Anxious Parents, Anxious Kids.

Modeling confidence and calm behaviors are central to most parenting situations, particularly when preparing a child ready for school. By fostering structure and daily routine in family life (bedtime, homework, etc), parents will find this transition period to be much smoother. Giving your kids too many choices about routine can backfire and ultimately put them in the seat of control. Remember, you are the parent.

Anxiety issues and traits can run in families. Children with anxious parents run a greater risk of experiencing anxiety themselves. It is still debatable (just read all the conflicting studies when you are having trouble sleeping) as to whether it is genetics, environment, both or something else, but there is no smoking gun when it comes to the root sources for anxiety.  Yet, it is quite observable that children – and most adults – can be like energy sponges, absorbing energy and assimilating behaviors. Remember, a child is usually no calmer than his or her least-relaxed parent. Anxiety can impact someone’s ability to focus, stay on task and is generally categorized by a state of unrealistic and persistent worry.

Sometimes it can be difficult to vet between what is age-appropriate behaviors and anxiety, but if you have concerns you should first discuss these with your child’s teacher and then a mental health professional should the behaviors continue to escalate.

  1. Teachers Can Be Your Best Ally.

Teachers get to know how a child behaves without family being present. Thus, parents can gain information about learning difficulties and peer problems and friendships. Teachers are your closest allies when it comes to your child’s success in school, and you should talk to them regularly. You will learn more about how your child is navigating his or her world, both academically and socially, by talking with the teacher.

  1. Routines Are Crucial.

Above all, be positive and encouraging. Examples of some good routines might include creating an uncluttered work space in the home; organizing a backpack, reviewing assignments; and discussing homework. You can observe your child’s strengths and weaknesses this way while also establishing and fostering good study habits. Also, be sure that your child is staying hydrated with lots of water and has the recommended amount of sleep for his or her age group.

  1. Don’t Worry.

Kids grow, learn and develop at different rates. A delay in one area of development doesn’t necessarily mean your child has a disorder. There needs to be significant evidence and some testing to reach any firm conclusion. However, if you suspect there might be a problem with your child’s development, talk to her teacher and consult with a mental health professional.

  1. Leave Them Alone.

This may sound counterproductive or even counter intuitive, but a child needs downtime. A schedule that is bursting at the seams, with little or no room for relaxation is also ripe for an anxious or depressed child. Give them time. Life is short, sometimes hard. Don’t unpack your stuff on that person who happens to be your child. Give them breathing room, and let them find out that the world can be a secure and inviting place without regimented schedules.

If you would like to continue the conversation or discuss more techniques to overcoming anxiety, contact me to schedule an appointment or free phone consultation today.

In Good Health,
Don

Group of friends smiling and taking a selfie
Christy Gualtieri

Confidence of Character

When I was a kid, I loved watching The Monkees on TV.  It aired really early in the morning, like 4:00 a.m. or some other ridiculous time, and since I was a kid before the glory days of DVR, I had to set my alarm to get up to watch it. I’d sneak out of my room and over to the TV, and flip it on to watch before I got back into bed. Davy Jones was my favorite -to me, he was the cutest one – but I loved the whole show: the slapstick, the songs, and all of the jokes. When Jones passed away some years ago, I was so sad; and when another of The Monkees, Peter Tork, passed away recently, I was saddened, too.

Peter was my second favorite on the show, and I was always drawn to him the same way I was drawn to George Harrison from the Beatles and Howie from the Backstreet Boys – these guys who weren’t the stars of the show, but people who contributed just the same. Maybe they stood out to me because their personalities seemed so different than mine, but I really think it’s because they were quieter people who didn’t need the spotlight as much.

You might know people like this in real life: people who know who they are, who are self-assured and confident in themselves. Maybe you’re even one of these people, and if you are, I salute you! I find it difficult for me to have that self-confidence that is content with my life and the way I live it. It’s a funny thing, because it’s the opposite of what you’d think is true: the more self-assured you are, the less you need outside validation – and the more people will probably end up validating you, because they’re drawn to you.

Maybe not right away, though. I think a lot of people, especially these days, get caught up in the flashiness, the glitz and the glamour – the costumes, and not the costume designer, so to speak. But there is a great value in being the one who doesn’t need the world to tell them how to be. They are themselves, uniquely themselves, and it’s a wonderful thing to see because it’s authentic, it’s real, and because there is only one you on the planet, it’s irreplaceable.

So to those of you who are the quiet ones that know who they are and who live that well, keep it up! And for those of you who are quiet and think you’re invisible, you’re not. People see you. By all means, reach out to others if you feel alone, but know that if your personality runs contrary to the people in society who think that you’re nobody if you don’t shout everything all the time, it’s okay to just be yourself. You’re just as needed and as valuable as everyone else.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineAbout the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.